Search This Blog

15 March 2011

Devastation, Confusion, Overheating, Meltdown ..

Devastation, Confusion, Overheating, Meltdown .. AND THAT'S JUST MY BRAIN.

Where is God?
What is God?
Did God make Man or did Man make God?
And are these questions about anyone (or anything) that actually exists?

A very good friend has tried to reassure me: "God exists, He really does."

If I say "God doesn't exist, He really doesn't", which of us can be proved right?

Hurrican Katrina, Indonesian tsunami, Chilean earthquake, Chinese earthquake, New Zealand earthqake, and now the Japanese tsunami .. if God made our World, one can be led to a number of possible conclusions:

1. He (She or It) doesn't exist therefore He (She or It) didn't.
2. If He (She or It) does exist, then it wasn't a 6-day job - it's work still in progress.
3. He (She or It) designed the world deliberately as a very dangerous place on which to exist.

Conclusions 2 and 3 are backed up by the existence of harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites that have led to thousands of years of disease and suffering.

To those who say all this death and destruction is part of a mysterious Plan, and brings forth occasional miracles like an unexpected survival (often hailed as an answer to prayers), I ask, what about all those who didn't survive who were also the subject of prayer?

It's a bit like me driving up to your house in the middle of the night with a bulldozer and flattening your property, then jumping out of the driving seat to pull one of you from the wreckage and calling the emergency services. This would be followed by my being hailed as a saviour, conveniently ignoring the fact that I had destroyed your house in the first place.

Does anyone have the means of cooling down my rapidly overheating brain?

09 March 2011

Cigarettes are going under the counter. Good thing!

Renouncing Nicotine

The UK Government has announced plans to prevent the visible display of cigarettes in shops. It got me thinking about my own battle several years ago to renounce nicotine.

I was, like many other people relieving stress by smoking large quantities of cigarettes. I had not at that time realised that smoking does not really induce relaxation. The reality is that the perceived pleasure (or relaxation) gained by lighting up is merely the addicted body’s craving for nicotine being satisfied.

How often do you hear the cry, “I get pleasure from smoking”. Of course you do: relieving an addiction can’t be anything else but a "pleasure"!

Like any other smoker I was immune to such argument: the craving goes beyond the bounds of logical argument. I can't stop my son smoking because he is, like all addicts, in denial. As far as he is concerned there are no health problems associated with smoking.

Like any other smoker I was prepared to divert large proportions of my monthly income into the purchase of cigarettes, and each time the Chancellor of the Exchequer increased the tax we moaned a bit but carried on buying the things anyway.

In the mid-1970s we were all aware that smoking was bad for our health, but again, addiction goes beyond accepting the logical conclusion that we should ditch the habit. I was no exception, and the arguments regarding my health went right over my head; I was not going to be one of those who got hardened arteries, heart disease or lung cancer.

Nevertheless, I did give up smoking, and the reasons were purely financial.

After several months of trying to make ends meet and collecting a nice little pile of unpaid bills, withdrawal of my monthly petrol credit account by the local garage, and a number of red notices for unpaid utility bills, I began to realise that I needed more cash. Since more cash from my employers would not be forthcoming (until or unless I got more promotion) my only option was to give up the habit.

I remembered that my father had once been a chain smoker, living in a perpetual haze of smoke. One day he decided to give it up.

Did he receive counselling? No.

Did he use nicotine patches? No.

Did he use nicotine chewing gum? No.

Did he use dummy cigarettes dispensing nicotine? No.

None of these things was available then. One day he was a chain smoker, the next day he was a non-smoker. From that day he never touched another cigarette for the rest of his life. He could not even be persuaded to have a cigar after dinner on Christmas Day.

(My mother, who had already given up smoking, used to keep a cigarette in her dressing table drawer for Christmas Day. The family used to look forward to Mother's Christmas spectacle of her 12-month old cigarette going up in flames as soon as she lit it.)

I thought if my father could kick the habit, so could I. Well, I did, but not quite as impressively as he did. It took many months. I started to cut down on the amount I smoked each day. Then came the day when I bought no further cigarettes, but I was smoking other peoples: each time I attended a work meeting or a social gathering, and someone offered me a cigarette, I took it, knowing full well that I would at no stage be in a position to reciprocate.

I persuaded myself pipe smoking was less harmful and so bought a pipe. Naturally this meant I had to fill my jacket pockets with all the accoutrements - a box of matches or a lighter with the delivery of a blow-torch, tobacco pouch, pipe cleaners, a tool for scraping out carbon deposits, and of course the pipe itself. My appearance became somewhat lumpy.

Then there is the procedure - stuff the tobacco into the bowl of the pipe, compress it to just the right consistency with your finger or thumb, get the blow-torch going and draw deeply on the pipe as you apply the flame and wait for the big cloud of smoke and the people nearby coughing and waving their arms about, indicating successful combustion. Then, after some contented puffs and rejoicing in how important and distinguished you look, either the pipe goes out or you find yourself sucking in some foul tasting liquid accompanied by bubbling noises, indicating the need to embark on one of the many pipe servicing schedules.

Servicing could be carried on in the middle of management meetings, turning the pipe bowl upside down and banging it loudly on a big ashtray, interrupting someone’s important contribution to the meeting. The mouthpiece could be pulled off to facilitate the drainage of stinking black liquor into the ashtray, then a pipe cleaner could be pushed back and forth through both sections of the pipe, and the de-coking tool scraped around the inside the pipe bowl.

It occurred to me after a few months of this that it was all faintly ridiculous. Moreover, carrying all this stuff around in addition to a wallet and a pocketful of money was ruining my suits and jackets. So I threw the whole lot away and started buying tins of small cigars, again convincing myself that cigars were less harmful and less addictive than cigarettes.

The financial problems were easing, but here I was, still spending money on rolls of leaves to be stuffed into my mouth and set alight, so I made the decision that I would smoke just one cigar a week, after Sunday lunch. This was the pattern that continued right up until just after the millennium, when a series of bronchitis attacks stopped me smoking completely.

The interesting thing about giving up the cigarettes was that, even when I was on a pipe, and then cigars, I began to find the smell of cigarette smoke extremely offensive, and this certainly helped me in my resolve never to go back to them. I also began to notice how the appearance of cigarette smokers differed from non-smokers - something about the skin quality, particularly around the area of the eyes. Then there were also the tell-tale signs of yellow fingers and, with grey-haired people, the yellow tinge imparted to that part of the hair nearest the face. The voice quality was also different, and the noise of the breathing, (not to mention the smell of the breathing) and of course the occasional wheezy cough. I noticed I was able to recognise smokers and non-smokers whether or not cigarettes were on display.

By the time I had reached the one cigar per week stage I was confidently calling myself a “non-smoker”, though I had frequent arguments with my wife about this as she insisted that obviously I was still a “smoker”. I gained strength for my argument from the fact that my doctor had now amended my medical records to state that I was indeed a “non-smoker”. Firstly he stated that on one cigar per week, the effects on my health were likely to be so negligible as to be equivalent to not smoking at all and secondly, because his computer system recorded smoking on the basis of x number of cigarettes/cigars per day, in my case he would have to enter 0.14 per day, and on his computer this was returned as a big fat zero! (I suspect this was his real reason for calling me a "non-smoker"). Things have changed again, now. Those of us who have renounced the habit are recorded as ex-smokers.

What is significant, however, is the fact that my health improved and so did my bank balance. I've never regretted giving it up. I've never missed it. And when I meet asthmatics who are still smoking I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Can there by anything more ludicrous than a person with a breathing affliction deliberately sucking smoke into their lungs?!